In Which I Go To Berlin...
I have handed in my thesis and I have time on my hands. I am not yet as Masters of Science but soon it shall be mine.
So I aim to blog more. More particularly I aim to blog about things that I am nerding out about. Things that, in the words of Pop Culture Happy Hour, make me happy. And what's making me happy this week? Autumn/Fall TV. Old shows are back, new shows have started. I am awash with televisual delights.
First up: Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. : After last season's big reveal about the bad guys, and the the traitor within, the titular agents are in a bad way. Essentially vigilantes, hunted by both the US army and Hydra, the team are on the back foot from the first episode of season 2.
The thing that worried me most about this season was (*spoiler alert*) the potential treatment of Grant Ward, the sleeper Hydra agent in the team. At the end of season 1 he was taken into custody and it felt like a ball might be dropped, that they might fast track a redemption arc for him. Now I have no real issue with a redemption arc, but it's one that should be earned. But the show, at least from the first few episodes, appears to be going a different route. Grant remains manipulative. He refuses to talk to any member of the team except Skye, essentially ensuring that she has to interact with him, on his terms. I'm interested to see how this plays out.
Gotham: I was worried about Gotham. Everything I heard implied they were going to treat the TV show as if it was in the same universe as the Christopher Nolan films (which I do not like), but the first few episodes could have been in a prequel to the Tim Burton films and I have tumbled into it's rabbit hole. The characters are over the top, the storylines are intriguing and there is an openly bisexual character, which is remarkably refreshing. And the actor (Robin Lord Taylor) playing the Penguin is utterly captivating.
The Originals: So it may be obvious that I like my nerd-dom melodramatic. And The Originals is nothing if not melodramatic. I watched the entire first season while I was off work with a nasty cold and I LOVED it. Elijah's smile alone would keep me coming back. But it's also utterly ridiculous and unapologetic about it. Season 2 just started and already the back stabbing has begun.
I do love me some great terrible television.
I'm not dead..
and to prove it, I'm going to appear LIVE and ON PANELS at this year's Eurocon in Dublin..
Due to August being OH MY GODS HOW AM I GOING TO WRITE ALL OF THESE WORDS month (or thesis-writing month), I'm only going to be there on the Saturday..
The schedule is provisional atm but these are the panels they want me to talk on..
Number 1 : Science Fact: Tweets from Mars and Songs from Space..
I get to talk about Robots on Mars and the awesomeness of space.. I'm on the panel with 5 other people but I know everyone will be there to hear about me witter on about NASA JPL and their realisation that marketing isn't the worst thing in the world.
Number 2: Science Fact: Wearable Tech..
Himself indoors is going to lend me his android watch this weekend so I will actually be able to talk about how they work with some degree of knowledge. Other people on this panel will know more than me.. I may have had a freak out about one of them.. maybe*.
Number 3: Science Fact: The Rosetta Spacecraft..
#wakeuprosetta I'm moderating this panel so I don't need to know anything. Which is great :)
so much to science fact there. I can't wait to get talking about it.
*This isn't like last year's CONvergence. I was on panels with super-awesome people**, but I didn't know who they were till afterwards, so no pre-panel jitters..
**Namely Emma Newman. If I'd read her books before CVG there's no way I'd have been that calm on the British Slang 101 panel. As it was, we got to bond over how weird american's find slang that's pretty common this side of the pond.
“What good is it for a man to gain his soul and yet forfeit the whole world?”
In his essay on post-environmentalism ‘Love your Monsters – Why we must care for our technologies as we do our children’, Bruno Latour argues passionately for scientists and environmentalists to cease imagining Nature as separate from Humanity. In the following critique I will show how this argument is both valid and necessary.
Nature has never been a separate “thing”.
Using the popular metaphor of Frankenstein and his monster, Latour turns the familiar narrative on its head. The crime is not that Frankenstein created the monster. The real crime was that Frankenstein abandoned his monster, left him alone in a world full of fearful people, with no skills to cope. Likewise Latour argues, we should not pull back from our creations just because there are fearful people and unintended consequences.
There are always unintended consequences.
His thesis centres on the argument that we should embrace compositionism and either abandon or reimagine modernism. According to Latour, modernism fails because it expects Science to reveal Nature, a Nature formally obscure to humanity. Modernism expects that “Tomorrow, we will be able to differentiate clearly what in the past was still mixed up”. That in the future there will be fewer messy entanglements. To Latour this is absurd. In this essay he states that the process of human development leads not to liberation from Nature, but to an ever increasing attachment to a “panoply of natures”.
He maintains that green politics has failed, largely because it fails to integrate humanity with nature, wanting instead to ‘save’ it. The narrative, framed by the green movement, of a dismal future has led to the marginalisation of eco politics.
Returning to his opening metaphor, Latour asks that we look again at the notion of Mastery, not in the traditional context of the Dominion of Man over Nature, but in the sense that we bear a responsibility to steward, manage and integrate nature within the fabric of society.
We cannot abandon our monster, our unintended consequence. We must take on the responsibility of our creation.
Nature is not separate:
Latour’s Essay was published in an anthology produced to provide both a harsh wake-up call and at the same time a glimmer of hope to a demoralised green movement. The anthology itself was commissioned by The Breakthrough Institute, which was founded by Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger with the intention of modernising the environmental movement. Their central conceit is that the argument of ‘Environment as separate’ is a fallacy. We can only hope to save the environment by engaging with other actors in it, be they politicians, industry or unions (Nordhaus & Shellenberger, 2004).
It is from this that Latour frames his essay.
“Every-day in our newspapers we read about more entanglements of all those things that were once imagined separable – science, morality, religion, law, technology, finance, and politics. But these things are tangled up together everywhere”
Since the evolution of humans, there has never been a time that the environment has been a separate thing. Within the same anthology as Latour’s essay Erle Ellis writes that humans have always altered natural systems to best suit themselves, and at the same time “the earth became more productive and more capable of supporting the human population” (Ellis, 2011). In a similar way Latour asks that we acknowledge we can never be separate from a nonhuman world. In this he sets himself at odds with current environmental thinking.
The prevailing narrative from the Green movement is that we should stop interfering with nature, that humanity will destroy nature if we do not immediately back away from it. This allows the eco-political discourse to be framed by those who do engage. Or at the least, those who provide a better narrative than the one above.
As Sarah Mills notes in her essay on Michael Foucault, “discourse should be seen as a system which structures the way that we perceive reality” (Mills, 2003). The discourse or narrative that the green movement embraced is one of disengagement. We have done this much damage, we should aim to do no more. To Latour this is the equivalent of Frankenstein abandoning his monster.
When Latour states that the movement should embrace the ever increasing attachments between things and people he is asking that the environmental movement change their internal discourse. He suggests that rather than retreat from nature, environmentalists should connect with it, and in doing so engage with the technologies developed in the last century to assist in saving it. This failure to break through the existing discourse and reframe the narrative from “special interest” to “relevant to all” is the root cause of the green movement’s marginalisation. If they face the growing eco-political challenges with science and technology in hand, he argues, there may be a chance for the movement to gain momentum once more.
“The return of consequences, like Global Warming, is taken as a contradiction, or even as a monstrosity, which it is, of course, but only according to the modernist’s narrative of emancipation. In the compositionist’s narrative of attachments, unintended consequences are quite normal”
Latour is a strong proponent of the Actor Network theory, which, according to Latour “approaches science and technology in the making” rather than “ready-made science and technology”. It is with this approach that his advocacy of Compositionism makes sense. Rather than seeing the science or the technology as finished and boxed off, he wants the environmental community to adopt it, work with it. To borrow from Donna Haraway’s Cyborg Manifesto, “Our politics lose the indulgence of guilt with the naiveté of innocence” (Haraway, 1991). The movement cannot afford to indulge in guilt.
Failure to adopt a more integrated approach can be seen clearly within the ongoing debate on Climate Change and also with GM food production.
The green movement frames the first as a technical problem to overcome. They engage with the science but have little success with the political. The resulting ‘debate’ is framed by industry and media outlets such as Fox News. While the science behind it is solid, the green movement has had difficulty in progressing the conversation. Latour argues that this is the result of political ecology failing to engage with a composite reality.
Indeed, the founders of the Breakthrough Institute argued similarly, “What’s frustrating about Boiling Point is the way the authors advocate technical policy solutions as though politics didn’t matter. Who cares if a carbon tax is the most simple elegant policy mechanism to increase demand for clean energy solutions if it’s a political loser?” (Nordhaus & Shellenberger, 2004)
By refusing to acknowledge that it is not the job of the environmentalists alone to save the world, but that everyone from the public, government, unions and indeed industry has a part to play, the job of saving the planet becomes significantly harder. While it may be easy to paint Monsanto as an evil corporation, this does nothing to assist food production in the developing world.
“In the modernist narrative, mastery was to require such total dominance by the master that he was emancipated entirely from any care or worry”
In reality, as Latour has argued, there is no emancipation. We are, and have always been, nature.
Ellis, E. (2011). The Planet of No Return. In T. Nordhaus, & M. Shellenberger, Love Your Monsters: Postenvironmentalism and the Anthropocene (pp. 37-46). The Breakthrough Institute.
Haraway, D. (1991). A Cyborg Manifesto. In Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature (pp. 149-181). New York: Routledge.
Mills, S. (2003). Discourse. In S. Mills, Michel Foucault (pp. 53-66). Routledge.
Nordhaus, T., & Shellenberger, M. (2004). The Death of Environmentalism: Global Warming politics in a post-environmental world. Environmental Grantmakers Association.
We were asked to write a critique of philosophical texts for one of our modules. The text should be something that we connected with. The one piece that hit me over the head like a bucket of bricks was Donna Haraway's Cyborg Manifesto. Here's my attempt at critiquing it.
“Liberation rests on the construction of the consciousness, the imaginative apprehension, of oppression, and so of possibility”
As a woman, a feminist, who only just encountered to concept of intersectionality within the last five years, the Cyborg Manifesto was eye-opening. The ideas I had thought revolutionary, were, only they were revolutionary 30 years ago. In this critique I will look at Haraway’s Manifesto from this perspective – That of a person encountering feminist theory for the first time. I hope to address the aspects of the manifesto that have clearly held true, and those that have been shown, by passage of time, to have not.
The Cyborg Manifesto is an analysis, not just of technology and society, but also of feminism itself. To Haraway the Cyborg is a symbol of a potential future. One where traditional boundaries are crossed, bent, or broken. She notes that the Cyborg is a creature without myth. It is not concerned with origin, it has never had an innocence to lose. Similar to Latour’s work in compositionism, Haraway sees the cyborg as “Nature and Culture reworked; the one can no longer be a resource for appropriation or incorporation by the other” (Haraway, 1991). However the cyborg does not need a Frankenstein to assist its progress in the world.
In comparing feminism to the cyborg, Haraway notes the fractured boundaries between women, from women of colour, socialist feminists to radical feminists. She traces the path of feminism from its Marxist origins in labour to its (she hopes) inevitable intersectional end. As the cyborg plays in the “confusion of these boundaries” it allows Haraway to take a critical look at them.
She finds these subdivisions of feminism exclusionary, that they cannot “provide the basis for belief in ‘essential’ unity”. As Bertolet said in Philosophy of Language, “being about the same thing might just be a matter of referring to the same thing , with differences in meaning reflecting different ways of thinking about the same thing” (Bertolet, 2008). However, while many parts of society are engaging with feminism, only certain ones are “remaking” feminist history. Feminism is policed to ensure no one deviates from “official women’s experience”.
Haraway sees the feminist past as being guilty of “unreflective participation in the logics, languages, and practices of white humanism and through searching for a single ground of domination to secure our revolutionary voice”.
As Mills stated in her book on Foucault, “Discourse does not simply translate reality into language, rather it should be seen as system which structures the way we see reality” (Mills, 2003). The policing of women, by women, allows a patriarchal oppression to continue. Haraway argues that Cyborg feminists should not want a unity. Rather than looking for a totality, feminists should strive to weave a new narrative, an inclusive one, with no defined categories.
In the post-human, cyborg world, Haraway sees communication technologies and biotechnologies as crucial in redefining and re-crafting ourselves. In this future “it is not just that god is dead; so is the ‘goddess’. Likewise, ideologies will need to reframe their narratives to better suit this technological time. She also predicts a rise of control strategies, specifying strategies applied to women and their capacity to give birth. The technology is not necessarily freeing, but it has the potential.
“Our bodies, ourselves; bodies are maps of power and identity. Cyborgs are no exception.”
The text of the manifesto is often difficult to decipher. The language used is almost deliberately obscure. For me, it required multiple readings before I had a grasp on the ideas contained within. Despite the allegory of the Cyborg, Haraway’s manifesto is surprisingly lacking in imagery. It takes time and effort to understand. To some, this can be off-putting. The human mind appreciates visual cues.
Haraway had an almost prophetic appreciation for how integrated humanity and machines would become, to the increasing dismay of some. Sherry Turkle, in the introduction to her book Alone together, notes that with increasing digital connections we can “hide from each other, even as we are tethered to each other” (Turkle, 2011). This ability to hide ourselves leads to a disconnect even as we reach out to engage with each other.
Concepts such as privilege and the patriarchy are normalised by online discussions. People have to a certain extent embraced this aspect of cyborg – this blending of borders between the offline and the online. Although not without some backlash. The increased presence of women in spheres traditionally perceived as male, such as politics and technology has led to an equal rise in vocal misogyny. From the online harassment of Caroline Criado-Perez (who dared to campaign for female representation on bank notes) to the treatment of Julia Gillard, the ex-Australian prime minister, women who dare to break the unstated boundaries are punished by an unruly mob.
Discussions on intersectionality are happening now, on internet forums, on sites like Tumblr, and on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. The conversation is the same. Women of colour are asking for their lived realities to be considered. Radical Feminists are still determining who can be both female and feminist. In a 2011 article for the Guardian entitled “The end of Feminism, or, how I learned to stop worrying and wear lipstick.” In it she stated that femininity was incompatible with feminism. One could not both wear lipstick and campaign against domestic violence (Bindel, 2011).
Haraway hoped that feminism would be able to move past its “painful fragmentation” that allows “for the matrix of women’s dominations of each other.” Reading the manifesto was at once energising and at the same time profoundly sad. We have not grasped the potential in Haraway’s vision. We are still struggling to see past our internal borders, past our inherited victimhood.
It has not all been a disappointment. In some areas, the reality is beginning to approach the optimism inherent in cyborg-feminism. In the last 30 years there has been an increase in recognition of non-binary genders. Something Haraway predicted in 1985. Particularly within the developed nations there have been significant gains in political recognition, with those who are transgender gaining equal rights with the traditional binary genders.
Claire Colebrook in her article, From Radical Representations to Corporeal Becomings: The Feminist Philosophy of Lloyd, Grosz, and Gatens, posited that philosophy should be seen as “creation and becoming, and as an always specific becoming, we would open the way for other becomings” (Colebrook, 2000) With the rise of the semantic web, ideas and ideologies are brushing against each other at an exponential rate. In this melting pot of ideas, it may be that Haraway’s Cyborg emerges.
In her interview with Nicholas Gane in 2006 Haraway said that “Manifestos provoke by asking two things: where the holy hell are we, and so what?” (Gane, 2006)
The cyborg manifesto is a question, rather than an answer. The text appears obscure because it does not seek clarity. It asks the reader to find their own interpretation.
Bibliography Bertolet, R., 2008. Philosophy of Language. In: The Routledge Companion to the Philosophy of Science. s.l.:Routlegde, pp. 36-46.
Bindel, J., 2011. The Guardian. [Online]
Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2011/jun/24/feminism-world-femininity-day
[Accessed 14 05 2014].
Colebrook, C., 2000. From Radical Representations to Corporeal Becomings: The Feminist Philosophy of Lloyd, Grosz and Gatens. Hypatia , 15(2), pp. 76-93.
Gane, N., 2006. When we have never been human, what is to be done?. Theory Culture Society, 23(7-8), pp. 135-158.
Haraway, D., 1991. The Cyborg Manifesto. In: Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. New York: Routledge, pp. 149-181.
Mills, S., 2003. Discourse. In: Michel Foucault. s.l.:Routledge, pp. 53-66.
Turkle, S., 2011. Alone together. New York: Basic Books.
It's been awhile.. I know.. I've been busy with college and work and life and trying to install windows on an ubuntu machine.. gods that last one is driving me insane...
stupid gorram netbooks..
I am not tech savy enough to format my netbook hardrive.. and now I think I've properly foobarred it.
ah well. I am sure I will figure it out eventually.
So.. this year my aim is to write at least one post a week. About anything.. something in the news.. something interesting I have found online.. a book I have read.. you know.. just in general something.
For today's post I am going to talk about the two books I have read this week (now that all of my essay's are done and I am now free to wallow in Fiction.. glorious glorious fiction..)
First up: Rose Under Fire:
This is a loose sequel to Code Name Verity (also known as the CRYING BOOK in my house, due to my OH waking up one Saturday morning to find me quietly sobbing beside me.. gods but Code Name Verity is a 100% gives me the FEELS book).
And I think that was part of the problem with Rose Under Fire.. which is an excellent book.. but as I was bracing myself for the crying and sucker punch or emotion I don't think I fully invested.
It's a great book though. An interesting look at an aspect of World War 2 I think rarely gets looked at. The complexity of loyalties and friendship under such conditions are not underplayed. There is no 100% good or 100% bad here, but there is pettiness and vindictiveness and mercy and compassion and laughter and camaraderie. And fear and hopelessness and hope and courage.
You do not need to have read Code Name Verity to read this. And I think I would recommend reading this first, before going back to Verity.
But do read them both.
Second: Eleanor & Park
OH GODS THIS BOOK.
That's pretty much all I have to say on the matter.
marvel at the joy and beauty of two teenagers finding each other and helping each other..
There is nothing bad about this book..
Just read it.
Also.. the cover is a thing of JOY.
I have spent the last week regressing. Not in a bad way, more in a revisiting the stuff I loved as a teenager way.
It was initially sparked by a random twitter exchange between two people I don’t follow (and now, can’t remember their handles) about the merits of Courtney Love.
The guy flat out refused to even consider that Hole had a place in music history.. he kept complaining about how unprofessional Love is and how the production values (or lack thereof) on Hole albums meant that they had no value or musical merit. The woman in the exchange kept saying, that he was entitled to his opinion, but that for her, Hole played a crucial role in opening up a whole genre of music, regardless of production values.
Now, I knew neither of these people, so didn’t feel it was my place to interject into the conversation.. but it got me thinking.
I’m pretty sure that the whole Seattle scene was founded on poor production values and far too many personality altering drugs.. I’m also pretty sure that Hole were not alone in reflecting this J
But the exchange did spark that memory.. the one of me dancing in my room to Live Through This.. I loved Hole when I was a teenager.. They were somewhat crucial to me getting into grunge.. well them and 4 non-Blondes. Can you imagine the joy it was for a teenage girl who didn’t wear (or understand) makeup to discover a world where it wasn’t necessary. Or women who wore makeup like they were playing dress-up. That being pretty wasn't the point.
So I went to my local internet music provider & downloaded Live Through This..
It’s still damn good.. and wonderful as training music for the couch to 5 k thing.
And to be honest, the production values don't seem all that bad to my untrained ears..
I will be posting more updates on this revisiting my not so wild youth.. next up with be Daria (You're standing on my Neck)
Oh World’s End left me dissatisfied and annoyed.
I’m a fan of the two prior films.. and I was very much looking forward to this one, despite not seeing any trailers, or reading any reviews..
I had been told that It wasn’t like their other films.. That it was different, but good. & not a comedy.
That was it, the extent of my pre-credits knowledge.
Which put me in a very interesting situation. I had NO idea what to expect (as I had been told it wasn’t like the other two films – which I love, note: I also like Paul & Scott Pilgrim).
And for the first 30-40 mins I was fascinated and really quite excited about the film.
Here it was, finally.
A darkly comic look at childhood friendship, growing up, refusing to grow up, mental health, the power one person still holds over a group despite decades of no contact, the impact of childhood bullying, even when you are in your forties.. The downside to group therapy and how sometimes (quite often) it fails the participants. About being king of the world at 18, and then never quite hitting that point again.
All of this was masterfully hinted at in the first 40 mins..
It was a proper grownup (if black) discussion on things that matter but never really get spoken about.
Sweet Jesus..The Aliens, I almost wept.
It was like a giant hammer of a metaphor for how society deals with mental health.. It really really really annoyed me, because the scene in which the aliens get introduced could have been epic. Pegg's character struggling to place himself in a world where he's no longer king. The new King of the town just ignoring him. It was interesting and I wanted to know how it would play out and how Gary would come to terms with his past.
But we got Aliens.
Instead of getting stuck in to dealing with the issues raised in the first bit we get distracted by fucking aliens.
Let’s just ignore all the ramifications of our life choices and kill things.
Every time the characters got close to a real conversation about real issues...
Oh yeah, and then there was the way they just ignored.. no, not ignored, celebrated how alcohol is used to mask emotions..
Let’s drown our f*cking lives away and avoid the giant elephant of feeling in the room.
And the end.. THE END.. (shoot me now)
Our choice is between childish rebellious manchild or autonomous robot.
That’s it humanity. If you don’t choose freedom without responsibility then you, my dear, are a robot.
Freedom (without responsibility) and alcohol.. that’s what’s important..
Oh I wish they’d made the other film..
The one without aliens..
So last night Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra finally made it to Dublin (the gig earlier this year was cancelled for reasons).
I was super excited before the gig.. I'd had a crappy week and all sorts of bad things are happening to people I care lots about so I really just wanted to let my hair down and rock out.
It’s pretty damned hot in Ireland at the minute and we’re completely not used to it. So it was a pleasant surprise when we got to the Academy and realised that not only was the AC on.. but it was working effectively.
Go The Academy.
Also it was pretty awesome to realise that half the disparate groups I hang out with on twitter and in RL were at the gig. Me and P had assumed we would be the oldest peoples in the audience but no.. It was a wonderful group of all ages and we didn’t feel at all out of place on the dance floor :oJ
So the gig..
I am going to admit to being a little disappointed that there was no drummer. I can’t lie about it. I have three songs I adore off Theatre is Evil and they are all pretty drum heavy. I was ridiculously excited about the idea of singing along with 500 odd people to Melody Dean. And Do it with a Rockstar is just the best song to have been released by anyone in years.. It reminds me of when I was 14 and discovering the Four Non Blondes.
So yeah.. that was a disappointment.. but the only one.. because the rest of the gig was EPIC.
To replace the drums we got strings.. and a never-played-only-just-composed string ensemble for The Killing Type. Seriously.. it was magnificent and now I want to see Amanda host the BBC proms with a full backing orchestra..
The rest of Grand Theft Orchestra (excluding the drummer, Thor Harris, who just had to go run off and play with some band called The Swans.. I mean really.. sheesh) were amazing.. sweet jeebus the base player, Jherek Bischoff, is talented.. He was conducting the strings section whilst playing the bass.. I was in AWE.
So the third song that I <3 on the album is Lost. Every time I hear it I'm reminded of all the people who left this world too soon. And I smile, because I still have them, they’ve shaped me. And we (the audience) got to be the drums for the song. And I'm so happy we were.
The NWA cover was inspired, and made more than the sum of it’s parts by the poor student who was brought up on stage (and then backstage) to hold a phone and act as a lyrical prompter.. I’m sure the student (who’s name I am unable to remember..) had one of the best night’s as a result J
Oh and the yellow submarine..
And then Amanda reached out with her soul and asked us to see her.. not the her imagined by hundreds of internet comment-ers.. but the actual real-life-her that has to deal with the hate and the love and the expectations and the reality of life on the road away from her core, and life off the road away from her other core. And I think there may have been tears… there were certainly people in the audience who know what it’s like to concentrate so hard on breathing through the black haze that art becomes virtually impossible.
But art is still possible and sometimes all you need is the Daily Mail to inspire it (no we did not get a version of Dear Daily Mail).
Special guest, Gavin Friday, performed Shakespeare. I love Gavin. When I made my final year project in college (a lesbian vampire film) I used his song Caruso to score it. And then a few years ago I saw him (and the Virgin Prunes) live at Grand Canal Dock singing sea shanties with Tim Robbins (no really).. so when he & Amanda sang together it was a gleeful thing.
And then we carried Amanda.. I supported her back during one pass (which might be the indie-punk equivalent of carrying a watermelon.. I don’t know) and on the second pass I almost lost my glasses due to a glancing knock from her arm or boob or something.. (in my head a mantra: I must not drop amanda, I must not lose my glasses, I must not drop my glasses, I must not lose amanda.).
Also, Missed Me is my second favourite Dresden Dolls song (Coin Operated Boy holds the top spot).
Oh! Did I mention Fucking Georgia of Fucking Bitter Ruin with incredible Fucking Voice... No?? Consider her mentioned.. Bitter Ruin played one song and nearly brought down the house.
They are playing in September in Whelan's.. We should all go see them.
I am unashamedly an Amanda Palmer fan girl. I have seen her live loads of times, tho not often enough and I have never made it to a ninja gig due to masquerading as a responsible adult with a job in the daytime…
Last night missed some of my hopes (no drums) but exceeded all of my dreams (Oh those strings.. they will haunt me).
Hopefully the band will tour Ireland again.. and then we might get to Do it With a Rockstar.. but until then.. Nothing’s ever lost forever, It’s just caught inside the cushions of your couch, and when you find it you’ll have such a nice surprise.
Earlier this year, as part of my course, I conducted an analysis of the measles outbreak in Wales. Here's the (somewhat long) result:
In 1998 The Lancet published a study by Andrew Wakefield that linked the MMR vaccine to autism (Wakefield 1998). The resulting fallout led to a substantial and dangerous drop in the vaccination rate.
In the decade and a half since Wakefield’s study, the results have never been replicated. Wakefield himself has been discredited and struck off the medical register. He is no longer allowed to practice medicine in the UK. However he has long since decamped to Texas where he continues to spread his anti-MMR message.
Despite the highly publicised nature of Wakefield’s fall, vaccination rates have remained close to or below herd immunity levels (NHS 2013). It has been argued that the UK press contributed to the distrust and fear surrounding the MMR vaccination (Fitzpatrick 2005).
For a number of months in 2013 a measles epidemic has raged in Swansea, South Wales. The children most affected were those of the “lost generation”. Children who were never vaccinated for fear they might end up autistic.
I analysed content relating to this outbreak in four UK broadsheets and one tabloid paper for the month of April 2013. I looked at the Times, The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Independent and the Mail. My intentions were to ascertain if each paper had a distinct editorial take on the epidemic, and if so, explore this further.
As this was a story spanning two decades, I needed to narrow the range of my analysis. To do this I took a high-level look at news coverage in the early days of the MMR crisis. To begin with I ran a search of UK Newspapers for the time period 1st February 1998 to 31st December 2001. (via Lexus-Nexus) with “MMR” and “Autism” as control words.
Within that timeframe there were 453 articles containing these words in the papers specified
I wanted to get an understanding of which papers covered the original MMR controversy and to what extent. Unsurprisingly, the Mail had the majority of the stories with 175 articles in total. In second place was the Independent, with 107 stories. This formed the baseline for me to compare to current data.
When analysing newspapers from the month of April 2013 I wanted to see if there was a comparable level of coverage for each paper. I ran a data search was from the 1st to 30th April 2013 and looked at all articles across the five papers.
There were 75 articles across the five papers, the majority of which were news articles.
The 2013 measles crisis in the UK is an interesting one, as at its foundation its one the media helped to create. In this analysis I wanted to see if there was any acknowledgement of prior mistakes, and whether or not there was an attempt to be more responsible in reporting about the science behind vaccines.
The Times has consistently been the most pro-MMR paper. The investigative journalist Brian Deere published his series of reports into Andrew Wakefield in the paper between 2004 and 2010 (Deer 2010). These investigations led to Wakefield being struck off the medical register.
Unsurprisingly, in April, The Times published the most articles on the measles outbreak (26.67%). All bar one of the articles were pro MMR. There was one letter in which it was unclear what the writer’s position on the vaccine was. In fact the letter writer was more concerned with laying blame on politicians and the NHS (Wood 2013).
17 of the 20 articles had science at the forefront of the story. Most listed the symptoms of measles, and the health implications. The headlines of the articles also maintained this message.
Measles is still a major threat, so don't ignore the value of the MMR jab
Surge in measles cases in wake of false MMR scare
Vaccination plea as measles outbreak continues unabated
My analysis showed that the paper had a strong pro-science, pro-medical editorial line.
There was one article which acknowledged that there was considerable pressure on parents at the end of the nineties to not vaccinate. That coupled with a growing distrust in the political establishment led to the reduced take-up of the vaccine (Thomson 2013).
Between 1998 and 2001, The Guardian published 54 articles on the MMR/Autism controversy (11% of the total articles published). In April, they published 16 articles (21%). Of the 16, five were letters to the Editor.
I have to admit to being surprised at the Guardian’s output in April. While they maintained a strong pro-MMR slant on their articles, they also had a very clear agenda. Of the 11 remaining articles, five had science at the forefront. These articles focused on the outbreak, how it was spreading, and the uptake of the vaccine.
Of the remaining articles, one was an editorial on Autism Inc, Andrew Wakefield’s reality tv series (Hannaford 2013), and another was on media culpability (Greenslade 2013).
The article on media culpability seemed, upon closer inspection, to be an excuse to criticise rival newspapers.
“Last week the Daily Mail reported that 2 million children risked catching measles as a result of the MMR scare. It is a scare that the paper knows all about, having been in the forefront of running a series of articles over the years that urged parents to beware of the multiple vaccination and its supposed links to autism.
“The Mail's headlines speak for themselves: "MMR killed my daughter"; "MMR fears gain support"; "New evidence 'shows MMR link to autism'"; "MMR safe? Baloney. This is one scandal that's getting worse". This is but a small proportion of the negative articles published by the paper.”
“There were plenty of anti-MMR stories in the Daily Express, the Sun, the Daily Telegraph and elsewhere, including regional papers, such as the South Wales Evening Post, which is based in Swansea, where the latest measles outbreak has occurred”
The Leftish lean in the Guardian asserted itself on the 30th April in an opinion piece by Aditya Chakrabortty which attempted to link the MMR controversy with Austerity politics.
“Still, whether MMR or austerity, the bottom line in both is that plausible science can make bad decisions seem sensible. When the science no longer seems implausible, the game is up. Wakefield was rumbled; slowly but surely the same is happening to the austerity-mongers.” (Chakrabortty 2013)
Between 1998 and 2001, The Independent published 107 articles on the MMR/Autism controversy (23% of the total articles published). In April, they published 14 articles (18%).
In the middle of April (the 13th), the Independent did a full page on the measles epidemic. They had a number of articles on one page, one of which was a statement by Andrew Wakefield. The other articles on the page presented the editorial line, which was pro-MMR.
However, on the internet, no-one can see the editorial decisions as they play out in print. The three main articles were viewed independently from each other and it appeared, to a casual reader, that the Independent was giving a platform to Wakefield (The Independent 2013) (Wakefield, 'The government has tried to cover up putting price before children's health' 2013) (LAURANCE 2013).
The following week, the Editor for the paper responded to criticism about the April13th issue. In his response he noted that Wakefield’s statement had been viewed by many out of context saying, “that when you're presenting something on the printed page, the reader can absorb everything around it; on the web, they may only receive one link to the one piece and miss the counterbalancing parts.” (BLACKHURST 2013)
It was an interesting issue to occur. Before the April 13th paper went to print, Chris Blackhurst had thought he had the balance of opinion on the paper right, but within a day, it was clear, that the editorial line had gotten lost in translation.
It is a valid reminder that context is not always immediately available on the internet.
Between 1998 and 2001, The Telegraph published 40 articles on the MMR/Autism controversy (8% of the total articles published). In April, they published 17 articles (22.67%).
The Telegraph concentrated their news stories on the facts of the outbreak in Wales. However they did have a few opinion pieces, in which an editorial bias might be seeping through.
In a piece by Cristina Odone on the 15th April she wrote:
“Andrew Wakefield, too, appealed to this smugness. The former doctor (he has been struck off the medical register) sold a powerful idea to mothers and fathers in cords and 4x4s. Of course, his claim that the MMR vaccine carried a high risk of autism proved utterly bogus. But that didn't matter: middle-class parents loved the message, even while being terrified of its implications. For it tapped into their paranoia about their precious children being at risk. Mums and dads who won't let their children climb trees lest they fall, or walk on coastal paths lest they be blown off into the sea, are not likely to expose them to a virus or bacterium, even a dead one.”
And in an article printed on the 27th April on the prospect of private schools being a “reservoir” for measles Laura Donnelly wrote:
“Prof Ashton said independent schools were likely to contain high numbers of middle-class parents who were "in thrall to" Andrew Wakefield, the doctor who was struck off after publishing the discredited research.”
In the Telegraph, it may be that Middle Class parents are really to blame for this epidemic.
Between 1998 and 2001 there were just over 450 articles written on the alleged link between the MMR vaccine and Autism. Nearly 40% of these articles were written by the Mail (between both its Daily and Sunday edition). In the period between the 1st of April and the 30th, 10% of the articles published were in the Mail.
The Mail has a dubious history with vaccines. In 2009 the Irish Daily Mail campaigned vigorously for the HPV vaccine to be made available to school girls in the state. At the same time, the UK Mail was campaigning for the exact opposite (Linehan 2009).
As a result of this history, I wasn’t surprised to note that the Mail had the fewest articles on the measles epidemic. In total they had 8 stories, six of which were updates on the outbreak in Wales. The other two were opinion pieces by Peter Hitchens, in which he argued that the Mail was not responsible for the low uptake of the MMR vaccine.
“THE BBC is making much of a measles outbreak in Swansea. The implication of much of its reporting is that those media who highlighted concerns about the MMR vaccine in the late Nineties are to blame. Not guilty. Many parents were genuinely worried, and did not find official reassurances convincing. Why should they, given the track record of Government? If the authorities had really wanted to avoid this, they should have authorised single measles jabs on the NHS.IS THE NHS our servant or our master? (HITCHENS 2013)”
“THE Left-wing media and their internet allies continue to make much of the outbreak of measles in Swansea. This seems to be turning into an attack on free speech and on a free press. Particular rage is being directed against conservative newspapers which gave prominence to claims - since discredited - that the MMR vaccination was linked to autism. (Hitchens 2013)”
There is without doubt an editorial line at play here. The Mail has not accepted any responsibility for the initial health scare, and continues to deny culpability. This may also be why the coverage of the epidemic is the weakest of all the papers reviewed.
The paper that impressed me the most was the Times, which remained consistently on message about the risks of measles and the benefits of getting vaccinated. Their opinion pieces focused on how best to communicate these facts to people.
The Mail fulfilled my expectations of it. I didn’t expect hard science, or indeed, acknowledgement of the part they played in the MMR controversy. However I had expected there to be more coverage of the outbreak, and by named journalists. Four of their eight articles were by “Daily Mail Reporter”.
The paper that surprised me the most with its editorial line was the Guardian. For a newspaper that portrays itself in a leftish-liberal manner, it seemed the most cynical in its use of the epidemic.
In fact, despite the shortness of the period reviewed, it was noticeable how consistent and obvious the editorial line was across all the papers. I had expected there to be very little difference in the presentation of the story from the broadsheets and while the science reporting was strong, the opinion pieces clearly reflected each paper’s bias.